Saturday, September 14, 2013

Haw Par Villa


A few weeks, I went with the other two Fulbrighters to Haw Par Villa. It is one of the stops on the MRT that I pass every day on the way to do research at NUS, but I did not know what was actually there. It is home to a Confucius theme park, with hundreds of statues and scenes from traditional Chinese folklore. With the wise old sage on the right beckoning us forward, we entered into this Chinese world of wonders.



First, a little background. The place was constructed in 1937 by a pair of brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par. They wanted to preserve the classic stories and virtues of their ancestors, and designed the park to remind locals of proper. Chinese values They also happened to be the developers of Tiger Balm, a Chinese version of Icy-Hot. These tiger statues on the right are still peddling their products to visitors.
The first area we entered featured Ten Courts of Hell. Essentially the Chinese version of Dante's Inferno, it detailed in great detail the various punishment humans would receive as a result of their misdeeds. As shown by the picture above, each Court is governed by a king or president who metes out the appropriate retribution. This was awfully gruesome, and I was shocked at the number of children at this exhibit. Here is one of the tamer examples - in the second Court, thieves and gamblers are frozen into blocks of ice.

After doing the time, the person would meet with yet another judge. He would then detail if the person had performed due penance, and then directed them to meet with an old lady. She then gave the person a cup of tea that both erased their memory and transformed them into one of six forms of life. You could be reincarnated as a human, animal, or some other life form. 




After this, the rest of the park consisted of a huge collection of Chinese folklore, most of which was completely foreign to me. So I won't try to explain their stories or morals. Visually, it was fantastic, and I got some pretty dazzling pictures.

Side note - if you click on one of the pictures, you can then view them as a pop-up slideshow, which is pretty convenient. 





Note how the rat in the back is brandishing a pistol. Not sure what his alibi is



The original Q-tip?

Haw Par Villa certainly qualifies as a place off of the main tourist path, but I would certainly recommend it if you want to be exposed to some Chinese/Buddhist teachings and stories.

1 comment:

  1. "Tiger Balm, a Chinese version of Icy-Hot"... there is some truth in that but Chinese people use it for everything ranging from headaches to insect bites.

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